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Kyrgyzstan: Kinship and Patronage Networks Emerge as a Potent Political Force

Informal patronage networks and kinship ties played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the recent constitutional crisis in Kyrgyzstan, enabling an opposition coalition to secure enhanced checks on executive authority.

A sustained protest in Bishkek's Ala-Too Square, lasting from November 2-9, acted as the catalyst for constitutional change in Kyrgyzstan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. This protest, organized by the For Reforms coalition, exhibited a far greater degree of organization than previous protests, including the one that became known as the Tulip Revolution in March 2005. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

The For Reforms leadership was well-prepared in early November for a prolonged protest, providing their supporters with tents, traditional Kyrgyz yurts and portable toilets on Ala-Too Square. In addition, the demonstrators themselves exhibited far more discipline than was evident in earlier anti-government action.

A key factor behind the protest's success was that the opposition's leadership had strong personal ties to nearly every single rank-and-file demonstrator on Ala-Too Square. As Scott Radnitz, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put it: "Among those conditions that proved critical were local vertical networks through which various [opposition] elites could

Alisher Khamidov is a PhD Candidate at School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.

Kyrgyzstan: Kinship and Patronage Networks Emerge as a Potent Political Force

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